Lakewood golf team finding success again
Cougars hoopsters-turned-golfers look to repeat as Cascade Conference champs
Dan Bates / The Herald
Rachel Reinecke (left) Eliza Wild, Nina Forsell and Cassidy Dvorak enjoy a degree of camaraderie with their putting practice last week.
Dan Bates / The Herald
Lakewood golfers, Rachel Reinecke (left) and Ashlie Jensen swing away on the Gleneagle driving range Tuesday afternoon in Arlington.
Dan Bates / The Herald
Standing near Kaylee Diggs (left) and Chelsea Blackwood, Lakewood girls golf coach, Chris Walster (right) watches and instructs players at the driving range Tuesday afternoon at Gleneagle Golf Course in Arlington.
Of the 11 members of the team, seven of them were members of the basketball program and five of the six varsity golfers played basketball this past season.
Six of the seven players were posts in basketball, meaning that the golf team has plenty of height -- not that that matters in golf -- but at the very least it could look intimidating.
But the kicker is they are more than just intimidating. They are downright good. The Cougars won the 2011 Cascade Conference Championship and currently sit in first place going halfway through this season. On top of that, many of the girls had no previous golf experience before their freshman years and most don't take professional lessons.
"For the most part I would say, unlike a lot of schools, our players aren't taking lessons from pros on the weekends or anything," head coach Chris Walster said. "We are kind of going to do it ourselves for better or worse.
"I am personally pretty proud that we are where we are considering that we don't really have a country club background."
The fact that they do it with so many basketball players isn't a coincidence either. Walster is not just the girls golf coach, but also coaches the girls varsity basketball team at Lakewood and seems almost proud to admit that he recruits his players to the golf course.
"I basically try to undercut all of the other programs and get the basketball players to come out," Walster said with a chuckle. "I tell them golf is something you can play for the rest of your life. You can play it with your grandparents. It's a great thing, so I definitely recruit heavy from the girls basketball team."
Kaylee Diggs, Chelsea Blackwood, Ashlie Jensen, Eliza Wild, Cassidy Dvorak, Rachel Reinecke and Brooklyn Hammond make up the seven basketball players on the golf team, but it isn't just Walster's recruiting that has helped that to happen. The players also recruit each other.
"Me and Kaylee Diggs have been playing basketball together forever and so once we got to high school we decided to play golf together as well," Blackwood said.
Reinecke and Dvorak both weren't going to try out for golf this season, but their basketball teammates convinced them.
"Neither one of these two, Cassidy or Rachel, started turning out at the beginning of the season," Walster said. "They weren't going to play at all and I think the other basketball players started working on them. Within the first couple of weeks they were out here.
And it's a decision that they don't regret.
"Im actually really happy that I did it," Dvorak said. "Seeing how much I have improved since just the first day, it's just a great experience. Learning this is a life skill. Even just the patience of golf, it teaches you a lot of skills that you can use in the future."
"I would have never considered golf if none of the basketball girls played," Reinecke said. "I think the fact that we were friends before helps us as a golf team, but also helps us as a basketball team when we go back to the season. We have spent more time together and we can work as a team better."
Dvorak also said the skills that she has learned can be interchangeable between the two sports.
"I think that the skills that you use in golf can be applied to basketball," she said. "Not even just basketball to golf, but golf to basketball because of how you have to be patient and you have to analyze things and think of everything as a redo. Even when you are coming down the court, you are not doing the last play, you are doing a new one and when you are going to a new hole it's a new hole it's not the last one."
Walster said he has seen the patience needed in golf carry over to basketball in his players.
"I think free throws are a great example," he said. "If you can stand on a tee with a bunch of people watching you hit that big shot and hold up under that pressure, standing at the free-throw line is going to be a lot easier."
For the past 13 years, Walster has tried to get his basketball players to come out for golf and for those that do they get to see a bit more of a laid back side of their coach.
"I think I lure them in with the promise that I will not be the same person in golf that I am in basketball," he said. "There are many differences between basketball and golf, but yeah, I am far more laid back. I enjoy doing golf because it's a more laid back experience."
Reinecke said that come basketball season it's not hard to re-adjust.
"I think because we knew him from basketball first, I think we are used to that side more than maybe the chiller side," she said. "So I dont think it will be that big of a shock when we go back to basketball season because that's how we knew him first."
One player that isnt part of the Cougars group of basketball players is the team's No. 1 golfer, Nina Forsell. But Forsell said she never feels left out by her teammates.
"I'm friends with most of them before, so I just knew them as just my friends," Forsell said. "I like hearing about the basketball stories, it's interesting."
With the vast improvement of the girls golf team the past few seasons, the Cougars have made sure that isnt just the height of their basketball-playing-golfers that is doing the intimidating, but their play on the course.
"Having the title of defending champions is kind of nice and we say it as often as we can," Walster said.
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at email@example.com.
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